Party: John Wormell, Ken Nguyen, Christian Wilson (leader)
Date: Sat 12 April 2014
The mostly untracked Tinderry Ranges are just south of Canberra, near the small village of Michelago. If you are on your way to the Snowy Mountains they are a prominent feature to the east of the Monaro Highway. I have wanted to climb 1619m high Tinderry Peak ever since I saw it about 12 years ago.
On Saturday morning we got started at 8.30am, (after driving down to the ACT on Friday night) at the Round Flat fire trail. The mountains were shrouded in morning fog, but this soon cleared away to a partly cloudy autumn day with a steady southerly breeze to cool us down. The area was very wet after heavy rain on Friday night. There are many feral pigs in the area, and despite the Parks management’s efforts to eradicate them, evidence of the pigs was there in the form of “snouted up” ground. Our small party marched up the easy fire trail running parallel to the ranges, and crossed Roberts Creek. Then we hit the very steep section of fire trail which got us warmed up in no time. About 150m of ascent later the trail evened out to a ridge line. Here we found a minor track to the east which was to lead us to a (large as a human) pig trap. The time was about 11am. This is where the off track navigation was to begin. Visibility was not great as you could only see perhaps 50m into the bush, with little sign of where to go. To confound things further the mountain is dotted with large granite outcrops which need to be either walked around or through. It made for some interesting, and sometimes slippery, scrambling.
However my trusty little GPS helped guide us higher until a large impressive rock slab gave us some relief from the rotten sticks and messy scrub. You could also have used a map and compass, but since the maps do not show all the outcrops, the hardest part was being in scrub with few good landmarks to get your bearings from. But there lies the challenge if you want it!
On the giant slab, we gained some views and a better idea of the terrain. However, once this was left this we became bamboozled by a jumble of granite boulders and thick scrub (I have never seen mountain pepper form such thickets!) A bit of time was wasted going back and forth trying to get through the rocks, which either had difficult cliffs or dead end rock closeouts. At least at one point we could view Tinderry Peak, so this helped us plan a better route to it. After finding an open saddle, the way got slightly better with the forest slowly getting more open towards the now obvious summit.
John was first to scramble up the rocks and the impressive views now opened up. But then frustration as we realized we were not on the summit, which lay another 150m away on a rocky spine.
This is where things got tricky, as we had some challenging rock scrambles up and down to negotiate the giant granite outcrops on the ridge. John cut his hand quite badly on the sharp rock so a little first aid was done before going on. Ken seemed pretty happy with the climb though. He was wearing mountaineering boots that he was trying to break in, but by the end of the day, I think he was ready to take them off !!
Finally the 1619m summit was gained at about 2pm and the views did not disappoint! Views to Mt Budawang in the east, north to Canberra, west to Mt Bimberi and south to the Snowys. All on an open peak with majestic cliffs and rock features! My happy place! We signed the log book which only had about 20 entries since 2002, suggesting that the mountain receives only a few visitors.
After lunch it was time to leave, but I decided to descend by a small rocky ramp instead of going the same way back off the rocks. What a mistake! We got into some pretty slimy rock and thick scrub, and needed to pay constant attention to the route finding so as not to miss getting back to the open saddle. I think everyone was starting to feel the pain by then! Luckily the way down proved easier with the knowledge of the terrain we had gained from the way up. It was much easier to avoid the rocky outcrops once you knew where they were!! A light rain shower was falling as we came back to the pig trap, ending the off track section. It was 4.30pm by then but easy walking back down the 6km to the car.
A large black pig was trying to bash its way through a fence on the trail but ran off. Ken’s tales of meeting wild boars head on had me hoping we would not do the same! We got back just on dark at 6.30pm. I measured the whole walk (thank you GPS J ) at 16.9km. I really enjoyed this climb despite the rough terrain, and plan to explore more of the Tinderrys again. Thanks to John and Ken for their enthusiasm and good company on this fun trip!